Southwark Council has adopted their new Local Plan. The decision to adopt the Local Plan was made at a meeting of their Full Council that was held on 23 February 2022. Our office is located in Southwark, and we have a long track record of successful projects across the Borough.
The new Southwark Plan 2022 has been a long time in the making and sets out a series of ambitious growth targets and policy requirements, which present both opportunities and challenges for developers going forward. Here we take a look at some of the key policies in London’s newest Local Plan.
The Southwark Plan sets the following growth targets over the plan period (2019 to 2036):
- Housing – 40,035 new homes (i.e. 2,335 per annum in line with London Plan targets);
- Jobs – 58,000 total jobs distributed across the Borough’s five Opportunity Areas and other town centres;
- Employment floorspace – 460,000 sqm of office floorspace largely focused within the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) plus 90,000 sqm of additional employment floorspace outside the CAZ.
- Retail – around 80,000 sqm net new retail floorspace, much of which will be focused on Canada Water Opportunity Area.
These development targets provide a clear framework for guiding development in Southwark and continuing its growth and transformation over the coming years.
Affordable housing requirements (Policy P1) have been extended to include smaller sites. Developments of 10 units or more must provide a minimum of 35% affordable housing – subject to viability. Developments of 9 or fewer homes are now also required to provide a minimum of 35% of habitable rooms as social rented or intermediate housing – alternatively a payment can be provided in lieu of on site provision, although there is some uncertainty on the actual level of payment that is currently being sought.
Policy P1 also offers a fast track route for developments providing 40% affordable housing with no grant subsidy and a specified tenure mix (or 60% affordable housing in Aylesbury Area Action Core), albeit this route is only available in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
The provision of a minimum of 35% affordable housing now also extends to private rented and purpose built shared living development, as well as student accommodation, and there are new standalone policies relating to each of these types of residential development in the Plan.
Policy P31 required developments proposing 500 sqm GIA or more employment floorspace to now deliver at least 10% as affordable workspace on site at discount market rents. Any on-site provision will be secured for at least 30 years, so this long-term commitment would need to be taken into account when considering the viability of any scheme. Where it is not feasible to provide affordable workspace on site, the policy does allow for an in lieu payment for off-site provision.
The Plan sets new carbon saving requirements which exceed national targets as well as those set out in the recently adopted London Plan.
Like the London Plan, Policy P70 requires major developments to be net zero-carbon. However, Policy P70 goes on to require major residential development to reduce carbon emissions on site by 100% compared to the 2013 Building Regulations. The policy confirms that, in exceptional circumstances, any shortfall must be secured off site through planning obligations or as a financial contribution. Similarly, major non-residential developments must reduce carbon emissions on site by a minimum of 40% compared with the 2013 Building regulations. These requirements go significantly beyond the London Plan which requires a minimum on-site reduction of 35%. Developers will need to consider the feasibility of these much higher targets at an early point in the design process and this should potentially be a subject for discussion at the pre-application stage of the planning process.
Despite the introduction of Class E (commercial, business and service) which allows much more flexibility between town centre uses and limits the ability of Councils to prevent the loss of retail uses from town centres, the new Southwark Plan opts to retain the designation of Protected Shopping Frontages in the Borough.
Policy P35 confirms that the Council will use conditions and/or planning obligations to restrict the change of use within Class E in respect of new development in the CAZ and other centres. However, it remains to be seen how effective the new town centre policies will be in protecting existing retail uses, supporting the health of centres and meeting the growth target of nearly 80,000 sqm of net new retail floorspace over the plan period.
The Plan also includes a comprehensive table which sets out validation requirements to reflect the new policy requirements.
In addition to the strategic and development control policies mentioned above, much of the new Plan is dedicated to policies relating to the 16 Area Visions and 85 site allocations, which will play a major role in shaping development in the Borough over the plan period.
If you have any queries regarding the new Southwark Plan 2022 or have a development opportunity in the Borough you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact one of the Firstplan team.